NEWARK, N.J. (CBSMiami) – The Florida Panthers will try to win their third straight playoff game Thursday night in New Jersey as the battle the Devils in the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The last time the Panthers and Devils were on the ice, New Jersey got started quickly and scored three goals against Florida starting goalie Jose Theodore. The Panthers pulled Theodore and put in Scott Clemmensen, who went on to shutout the Devils the rest of the game.
Powered by Clemmensen’s strong goalie play, Florida’s offense finally woke up and proceeded to score three goals in rapid succession to tie the game. The Devils made the rare move to pull future Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur from the game.
Florida went on to score another goal which turned out to be the game winner. Now Florida is in the driver’s seat heading into Game 4 Thursday night. If the Panthers can win Game 4, it puts the Devils’ proverbial back against the wall.
New Jersey immediately announced after Game 3 that Brodeur would indeed be between the pipes for Game 4. Brodeur will likely be ready for whatever Florida throws at him Thursday night, which means Florida’s goaltender needs to play solid.
The only problem is no one knows who will start for the Panthers. Head coach Kevin Dineen kept his cards close to the vest and wouldn’t reveal who would start Game 4. While Jose Theodore is the cagey veteran, Clemmensen has been outplaying Theodore in recent weeks.
“For two months, Clem has been an excellent goaltender and one of the best of the league,” Dineen said. “He’s a hard guy to dislike. He has tremendous respect from our players and coaching staff. It’s certainly a tough decision to make, whichever way I choose. Theo wasn’t able to stop them early, but it all doesn’t fall on Theo. He’s been terrific all season.”
The Panthers have to get solid goalie play right out of the first faceoff. In two of the three games, the Panthers have gone down 3-0. The only thing that has saved Florida has been the power play units.
Florida has converted 60 percent of its power play opportunities in the first round against the Devils. Ironically, the Devils had the NHL’s best power play killing units this season.
Faceoff is set for 7 p.m.